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My initial experience with Amarra Mini


HiFiInsider

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Amarra Computer Music Player

 

Got the full version of Amarra Mini with iLok in the mail yesterday. I wanted to do everything right so I upgraded the internal drive to OCZ Vertex Turbo 30gb SSD drive just for the OS. I installed a fresh OS (Leopard 10.5.x) and removed all the applications I don't plan to use. I followed all the recommendations Sonic Studios had on the Amarra Mini. So here is my setup and first impressions.

 

System:

- Adcom GFP-750 (passive solid state pre-amp)

- Cary Audio 805 Anniversary Edition 300b tube mono block amps

- White MacBook, 2.1ghz Intel Core2 Duo, 4gb RAM, 30gb SSD internal drive

- Sony SCD-1 (CD player vs. Amarra Mini)

- 1TB USB external hard drive attached to MacBook (all music files are in AIFF)

- Apogee Mini DAC (MacBook optical to DAC via Apogee glass optical cable)

- JM Lab Mezzo Utopia speakers

 

As you can see, this is a pretty nice setup. It's also very revealing.

 

Installation and use Impressions:

- installation was easy, DVD I got was an older version so I had to get the update via web site. Not a problem, but I wish it had a "check for update" within the app instead.

- Integration with iTunes is good and simple to use.

- I did have to force quit both apps twice due to CD will not eject after ripping. Problem solved by setting iTunes to "import & eject after".

 

Problems:

- Amarra would not play my foreign music tracks. I tried playing some foreign music CDs through Amarra, still no sound. All those tracks plays fine with Amarra turned off so I know it's not my files.

- Although the latest version of Amarra Mini states it will play gapless track, it doesn't play those without a split second gap. So it's not seemless like iTunes is.

 

Sound quality:

- comparing to iTunes, Amarra sounds smoother, more details, more controlled bass, & more analog. Overall performance is good.

- comparing to my $5k Sony SCD-1 CD player, Amarra is so close I can't tell the difference. This is good because that was what I wanted. Without Amarra Mini, iTunes did not sound as good as my Sony CD player, but with Amarra Mini ON, there identical.

 

Final thoughts:

- Sonic Studio really needs to fix the problems I experienced. IMO, those are unacceptable for a music player.

- The sound improvements are there, but not in your face or overly done.

- I do think Amarra Mini is worth the money @$399 if those problems are fixed.

 

 

 

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Did you use the Playlist function for gapless playback?

 

Wavelength Silver Crimson/Denominator USB DAC, Levinson 32/33H, Synergistic Research Cables and AC cables, Shunyata Hydra V-Ray II with King Cobra CX cable, Wilson Sasha WP speakers with Wilson Watch Dog Sub. Basis Debut V Vacuum turntable/ Grahm Phantom/Koetsu Jade Platinum. MacBook Pro 17\" 2.3GHz Quad Core i7, 8GB RAM, Pure Music, Decibel, Fidelia, AudioQuest Diamond USB Cable.

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"Amarra would not play my foreign music tracks. I tried playing some foreign music CDs through Amarra, still no sound. All those tracks plays fine with Amarra turned off so I know it's not my files."

 

There's still an issue with some foreign character sets that prevent Amarra from playing tracks. Jon is aware of the problem, and is working on it. As I understand it, it's NOT an insignificant fix.

 

Perhaps Jon will respond with a prognosis.

 

enjoy,

clay

 

 

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Update:

Jon at Sonic Studio called me about the issues I am experiencing. He is truly a gentlemen and easy to work with so I hope he finds the cause. The thing about Amarra Mini not playing gapless is partly my fault. It turns out that it will play gapless when the tracks are imported into the Playlist. Playlist may be a better way to play the tracks because iTunes DOES NOT play along side with Amarra so it should be easier on the CPU.

 

I'll report back when I have something new. So far, I am loving the sound of Amarra.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just a rant here...

 

To me, having to put an album into a playlist to achieve gapless playback is a very serious flaw. An unacceptable one to me and to many others I've spoken with. It defeats the whole purpose of easy storage and playback. If I have to go through all the steps to create a playlist, I might as well just spin the disc. I sure hope Sonic is working on that. I was about to purchase but having second thoughts.

 

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JRiver MC14 for windows does all that and much more for 50$.

Too bad, you have chosen the expensive route :(

 

 

Sorry I could not resist ;)

This is good news having a new extension to iTunes that is more affordable.

Are there really sonic differences with the full version, or is it just a question of features (such as the 24/96 limitation) ?

 

Elp

 

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I haven't done any listening tests but Sonic Studio says there are no sonic differences if you are not using the volume control.

 

The full version does offer a very nice parametric EQ which can do a very good job of taming room problems at low frequencies.

 

The mini has the advantage of being available in a version that does not require the iLok.

 

 

 

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Hello, greetings from Belgian land, and thanks to Chris and the crowd here for a truly fascinating forum!

 

I consider myself experienced with turntables, carts, step-ups and phono preamps however am really new to computeraudio. About a month ago decided to take the macmini 4gb plus amarra mini route and am having fun with it since. However, sonically am not blown away by the results, at least not yet. My initial experiences are with a Benchmark DAC1 connected in toslink, so there is room for some improvement (Weiss DAC2 is about to arrive, I heard it before on AES/EBU and it is a step forward).

 

But back to Amarra: based on my limited experiences so far it does sound smoother, more liquid and more tridimensional, however my initial impression is that there is a tradeoff, as Amarra appears to take away some of the sparkle and airiness at the higher frequencies. I find iTunes not that bad, also without Amarra, it is just a matter of getting used to a particular sound. I believe one can use Amarra or not depending on the music, it is like playing different cartridges. Chamber music and some jazz or vocals are great with Amarra, heavy rock for example plays well and probably better without.

 

Nice to be here, between family and work there is little time left, but I will drop by from time to time. Thanks to all for the good advice received so far!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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During a moment of unusual clarity (for me), I think I understood why Amarra doesn't handle gapless playback the way we want it to. As I recall, it struck me as something SS might not be able to fix. But now I forget. :-)

 

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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What bothers me most is not being able to play everything in my iTunes library. I decided to keep Amorra Mini mainly to support the developer and in hopes of a fix soon. As of now, I'm just not too happy with it's short comings.

 

Will Amorra Mini sound better if I were to use Firewire? I am using optical now with my Apogee Mini DAC. My past Firewire vs. Optical comparo was last year without Amorra Mini. Optical sounded better than Firewire, but that was without Amorra Mini.

 

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DJ, I hope you don't mind an unsolicited opinion: It seems to me that your DAC is not commensurate with your expensive loudspeakers. Once you get settled into using a computer as a music source, you might consider upgrading the DAC. (Of course, there are numerous opinions on this forum regarding favorite DAC's.)

 

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

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I don't agree Bob.

 

The Apogee MiniDAC is a very good DAC, I have several DACs here (Benchmark, Mytek...) and the Apogee is one of the best. I chose the MiniDAC for my hifi equipment after listening to a few DACs. Is a bit more euphonic (more charming upper mids) than the DAC1 from Benchmark but more enjoyable for long listening.

 

Inside have a very good DAC chip, the Analog Devices AD1955 just the same as Lavry DA10 or Esoteric D-03, and a very good Firewire connection. Sounds better with a better power supply

 

The only regret is that the Amarra can't change the MiniDac's fs by the moment (Amarra's problem, other softwares can) (Only concern to Firewire MiniDAC)

 

Cheers

 

Mac Mini >Amarra Mini>Apogee MiniDAC>Ars Sonum Filarmonia SXE>Quad ESL 2805[br]www.susoramallo.com[br]

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Hi again, would like to add one comment and one question.

The comment: this is the first time that I read that optical is better than firewire, sorry but I don't believe this, optical is generally considered the worst of all solutions.

The question: I thought Amarra had the great advantage of adjusting both sampling AND bit rate of the audio midi setup when playing on iTunes, did I get that wrong? I did 2 tests:

(1) set audio midi setup at 96/24 then opened amarra/itunes and played first a 96/24 song followed by a 44.1/16 song on iTunes: the only part that switches automatically in audio midi setup is the one related to sampling (from 96 to 44.1), but the bits remain unchanged at 24 bit. Why?

(2) did the opposite test, setting first audio midi setup at 16/44.1, then enter amarra/itunes to play first a 16/44.1 song followed by a 96/24 song: similarly, audio midi setup changes from 44.1 to 96kHz but remains at 16 bit instead of switching to 24 bits.

Am I missing something? Thanks for any advice you might have.

 

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No, isn't upsampling, is just more bits, but if don't have data are blank and inocuous bits (16 to 24). In the reverse side (24 to 16) you have a truncation, if you have a truncation without dither will be occurs bad things.

 

I leave a pair of images of a 500Hz tone who drops from 16 to 8bits (for see it better) with and without dither

 

 

 

 

 

Mac Mini >Amarra Mini>Apogee MiniDAC>Ars Sonum Filarmonia SXE>Quad ESL 2805[br]www.susoramallo.com[br]

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Thanks ramagochi, also for the link on dither, am still on the early side of the learning curve with digital.

 

Just compared one more time 44.1/16 files played in 16 and 24 bit output in audio midi setup, indeed hard to hear any major differences.. point taken I guess..

 

This forum brings together people with different backgrounds and focus, some are fascinated by computers and hardware/software tweaks, others focus more on sonic results. I am in the second camp, but believe having both communities talking to each other is a great thing, thanks!

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Tresaino, the appropriate listening test would be to take a 24-bit / 44Khz file and play it with 16-bit output set in Audio MIDI setup. Given the way you did it you should not hear any differences because playing a 16-bit file with 16-bit output is correct, playing it with 24-bit output would only pad the file with 0's and should have no effect on the sound.

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 5 months later...

Back in March, Dj_AmTrax wrote:

I am disappointed that there is still no fix for the problems I am experiencing. Spoke with John about my concerns the same week I bought it but have not heard back.

 

Hey DJ AmTrax,

 

I’m curious. Did you ever get your issue attended to? By now, DRM-protected files are the only kids not at the playback party…

 

Regards,

______________________________________________

O.A. Masciarotte - http://www.othermunday.com

______________________________________________

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